Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Physical Boundaries of Music & a New Song

Wow. Just, wow. Today marks the day that I ran out of DSP (digital signal processing.) Normally that wouldn't seem so crazy, except for the fact that i'm producing on my Quad Core Xenon Mac Pro. I don't know if i should celebrate my ability to push software & hardware to its limits, or cry because i've pushed my software & hardware to its limits.

So, my questions to you out there in the Interworld:

-How hard do you push your gear?

-Are you always taking your gear to its limits, or does technology go far beyond your needs?

-If you are at the cusp of your limits, is the gear you're using relatively current?

-Any horror stories, live mishaps, or other bizarre stories due to your tendency to push your gear? I'm not talking faulty gear breaking at a show. I mean, your band sucked all the juice out of a venue & blew a main fuse; you bring 3 guitars and 2 amps to shows because strings and fuses break under your violent playing; your computer ran out of steam at a critical point in a session...

When i finished mixing down the track (and listened to the WAV to make sure no digital artifacts were in the final product,) i told myself that i'd have to compose some minimalist songs. That made me think about the music humans make and the seemingly non-musical parameters that define our music.

Obviously, technology plays a huge part in the music we make.

The earliest know musical instruments are bone flutes from at least 30,000 years ago. Even without empirical evidence, i'd find it safe to assume that early musicians were already using their voices when they invented the bone flute. Knowing that rhythm and percussion are both deeply connected to the most primitive parts of our brain and emotional centers, I might even take a jump to say they were using blunt objects percussively. No matter how creative those early musicians were, their creativity was limited to the sounds of voice, logs, and bone flutes.

Here we are 30,000 years later and we're still running into technological limitations of music creation.

A piano causes the pianist to play certain ways. You can change the sound of a piano through effects or electronics, but the layout of the keyboard and the human hand create certain limitations and tendencies.

Django Reinhardt is an amazing example of this. A man with a 'deformed' & paralyzed hand actually used it to his advantage and radically altered the way a standard guitar was played, thus, changing the way music sounds. I've been told that it actually took 5 guitarists to replace him after he died.

A computer, which seemingly destroys all music/technology boundaries, is yet another boundary that will define and limit how music of our era sounds. Thanks to computers, any analog or synthesized sound can be made and molded and affected into music. But, processing power is limited. Methods of audio synthesis are limited. Computers can only make sounds so many ways. Technologically, electronic signals can only do so many things to themselves and other electronic signals to make sounds.

There was an amazing shift in music when we switched to the tempered scale; again when the phonograph was invented; then we plugged in instruments to amplifiers; then came the microprocessor. The next major aural deviation from everything we know will come when the next technology allows music to do so. Perhaps quantum-computers will be able to create a sound we've never heard before? How amazing would that be? That would be akin to seeing a color we've never seen before.

I was going to post a different song, but since the entirety of this blog was inspired by the cut i just finished, here you go:

Morning Glory

Have a great week. Until next Tuesday,

<3 Noise!

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